Zoe Sugg has been supported by sex positive charity Sexpression after AQA dropped her site Zoella from its Media Studies syllabus.
The exam board, which has featured Zoe and her lifestyle brand since 2017, confirmed it would no longer include her due to topics on the site being ‘aimed at an adult audience’.
While there were no specifics about the content in question, the statement came a couple of weeks after a round-up of the most popular vibrators was posted to the Zoella website.
Speaking to Metro.co.uk, Eleanor Cochrane, Externals and Press Director of Sexpression, explained: ‘Relationships and sex education (RSE) provide the knowledge and skills needed to make informed decisions about bodies and sex lives. Understanding your own body, self-care, and pleasure can break down any shame and taboo surrounding masturbation. Historically relationships and sex education has focused on male pleasure perpetuating myths that masturbation and pleasure are just for penises.
‘As a result, we’ve removed the section on Zoella from the course, and we’ve contacted our schools and colleges to let them know.’
AQA later added: ‘Last week we made the difficult decision to remove a section looking at the vlogger and blogger Zoella (Zoe Sugg) from our GCSE Media Studies course. Since then, there have been some misunderstandings in the media and on social media about the reasons and context behind this decision.
‘We added Zoella to our course in 2017 as an example of online and social media. In 2017, her website was a personal blog with content that was all suitable for the children as young as 14 who take our two-year GCSE course. Since then, the Zoella website has evolved and now includes a range of articles of a sexual nature – alongside many other topics – aimed at adults aged over 25.
‘A lot of the media coverage and social media reaction has wrongly suggested that our decision to remove Zoella from the course was due to one specific article – and also that GCSE students are all aged 16.
‘In fact, our decision was due to the whole range of adult-focused content that the website has started publishing since we added it for in-depth study in 2017. And the question isn’t whether this is suitable for 16 year-olds taking their exams, but whether it’s suitable for children who start their GCSE course at 14 – and occasionally younger.
‘Our belief – which is shared by many teachers and parents who have contacted us – is that it isn’t appropriate for us to ask children as young as 14 to study a website that includes sexual content aimed at adults.
‘None of this is a judgement on Zoe Sugg, her work, or the suitability of her material for her target audience. As she’s pointed out herself, she wasn’t aware that children were studying her work for our course and we’ve never had any kind of relationship with her.
‘Effective relationships and sex education in schools is vitally important and we completely support it. All we’re saying is that we don’t think studying adult-focused lifestyle websites in GCSE Media Studies is the best way to do it.
‘We respect the right of anyone to disagree with our decision, but we believe that it’s the right one.’
Zoe, 30, also recently addressed the move, saying her demographic is mainly women aged 25 and up – but she does believe teens should learn about their bodies.
‘Apparently the @zoella website got picked for a GCSE syllabus? Nothing I was aware of or asked to be part of,’ she began.
‘For those who aren’t aware, the @zoella website is not just me reviewing things. It’s a passionate team of women (WOMEN) writing about things that women are interested in & we’ve worked hard to include more women’s health, conversational articles, & basically just more grown up content as our main demographic is 25-35 year old females. NOT 16 year olds.
‘However if the curriculum had done their research before just going “Oh Zoella, her audience are just teens, right?” They probably would have discovered countless posts about periods, masturbation, sex, fertility alongside the newer post they’re referring to!
‘Alongside this. I actually disagree that teens shouldn’t be learning about this stuff. Maybe not in their bloody [exam curriculum] but how else are teenage girls going to find out more about being a woman? I WISH I had a website like @Zoella when I was growing up.
‘Instead I had a Mizz magazine problem page!! Are you trying to tell me your 16 year old daughter doesn’t know what a sex toy is or that she’s not explored her body AT ALL? Oh plzzzz. [cry laugh-emoji].’
They recommend reliable resources from the NHS, Brook, Sexwise and Contraception Choices.
They added: ‘During lockdown we and our branches have been creating home RSHE resources and encouraging, in line with government distancing guidelines, #sexualdistancing. Sexual distancing involves hand hygiene and sex toy hygiene during all types of sex. Masturbation alone is the safest option right now but if you ARE having sex with other people, keeping your number of partners to a minimum and avoiding group sex will reduce risk of exposure to Covid-19.
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